In the last 12 months the world of politics has been eventful. Democracy has paved the way for significant changes in leadership and direction in Europe and North America. It is fair to say that the world order is changing and people power is taking over. If the population feels disgruntled with the institution they now feel empowered to vote for change. There is also increasing wariness with Government institutions and how they conduct themselves and engage in business.
Generally, we as consumers have far more options available to us in all walks of life. We have more choices about how we shop and interact with companies. Companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb are allowing us to have more choices in how we choose to travel, eat and sleep! There is also an increasing entrepreneurial spirit amongst those who chose how and when to work.
So my question is with all of these changes happening around us – do we need to change the way we do economic development? Traditionally, economic development was run by the Government. In some cases, having foundations in Government can be of benefit when engaging with companies however for some companies this can be disconcerting. I have heard anecdotally instances of agencies trying to dissociate themselves from Government when attending trade shows in order to engage more effectively with companies.
The way economic development agencies are funded is changing, many agencies are moving towards having a combination of public and private funding and therefore have an array of stakeholders to keep happy. This combination can also have an impact on the way they operate and how they are targeted. Overall, I believe this combination of power between Government and the private sector provides powerful insight and force. It can also allow agencies to tune up or down their association with Government.
Other agencies are now proactively engaging with their diaspora to help attract business and promote their regions internationally. These diaspora schemes are driven through personal contacts and relationships and affinities people have with places. In many ways these initiatives are targeting in a similar way to social media through personal connections.
How we engage is changing and therefore it is necessary for us to adapt how we approach economic development. We need to consider new strategies of engagement and how we work with the market rather than relying on techniques we have used in past 5 years. The last 12 months has been eventful and who knows what changes will happen in the coming year!